Saturday, August 30, 2014

12 Things I Have Learned About Writing

  1. It’s hard. I mean really hard. Like it makes you want to bang your head on your desk until your desk cracks. It makes you want to tear your skin off. It makes you want to run screaming from the room, running with the speed of a well-drugged baboon. And that’s on a good day.

  2. Your perspective is everything. This cannot be understated. Understood properly—your perspective is the only thing that you have in this world. It isn’t right, it isn’t wrong—it’s just yours.

  3. Because of point two, you are in a unique position to comment on the world, and any of its contents. Because of point two, your perspective matters. Besides your perspective on things, the only other things you’ve encountered in this world are other people’s perspectives. It is a total democracy—no one’s perspective matters more than anyone else’s*.

  4. *Oh, about that last sentence of point #3: It is true—to a point. It's true that no one has more or less of a right to their perspective than you, but not all perspectives are created equal. It is your perspective, do what you want with it. But if no one wants to listen, that's probably your fault. We are finite beings, we cannot laze about at the pool and leisurely drink in the perspectives of others. We have to make tough choices; we have to be discerning. 

  5. So keep it interesting. Say something different. I can't tell you how many things I read that have been said a thousand times. Why waste your breath? Now, one of my favorite phrases is "there is nothing new under the sun." It's all been said and done before. A thousand times. But because of your perspective, you have the option to make it unique. Yes it's been said a thousand times, but you can make it new.

  6. Steal. It's ok, just do it. Not the whole bloody thing, word for word, that's plagiary, you idiot. Steal the image, steal the phrase, steal the feeling it made you feel and try to plug it into what you're doing.

  7. We need help. I don't know how other writers do it without bouncing their ideas, if not their very words, off of a trusted friend or two. Many do not do this, don't seem to need it—but I hate them and they have probably consorted with beings of darkness to obtain such talent. 

  8. Another way I get help is reading about other artists and writers talking about their own process of writing. Read people who are honest, and this will help you to be more honest. More honesty means better writing. More honesty means a better life.

  9. You don't have time to wait for inspiration. Sit at your cold desk, hate yourself if you must, and just start moving your pen. Cry. Hate yourself more. Berate yourself, even though you shouldn't berate yourself, if that's what it takes to stay seated. Produce something shitty. Slink away from your desk. Hope for a better day tomorrow.

  10. You don't have time to wait for inspiration. To quote a great sage of our time, "You're gonna go out there and grab [inspiration] by the tail, and wrap it around, pull it down and put it in your pocket." Your muse is a tease. She's like a bad dog: she doesn't respond to your commands, is selective with her love, and is, on the whole, quite unreliable. 

  11. Every artist is unique. There is no one way to do it. It took me a long time to understand this. I would read about other writers, or read other writers, and try to decide which one I would be, or which one I would most be like. I did this so that I could learn how I was supposed to be. There is no such thing. I am a combination of many styles, but I am my own. Oh, sure, I wish I was someone else. I would rather be John Updike, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Robert Capon, CS Lewis, Joseph Heller. But when I was born I was saddled with the moniker of "Jason DesLongchamp." So right out of the gate my options of who I was going to be were narrowed down to a pathway of only one. I imagine you had a similar experience.

  12. You can't wait to get it right. This is my biggest, and ongoing, writerly sin. It has to be perfect. I have to be factually, grammatically, politically, logically, socially, theologically, and actually correct. Yes, these are nice things to be. But you will drive yourself insane (take it from me, an authority on the matter) trying to connect all these dots, jump through these hoops, and line up these crooked sticks. Just say what you've got. If no one listens, fix it. If no one listens still, junk it. Come up with something else. But don't belabor it to the point where you don't allow it the light of day, for fear of being in some way wrong. You will be wrong, in some way—no way around that. A fate worse than being wrong is being nothing. 

If you share nothing then that is exactly what you have given the world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

10 Things I've Done That You Never Should

  1. On a number of occasions I have made up aliases, complete with their own email addresses, so I could tell someone off or otherwise trick them into giving me information.
    • Waste of time. Just be honest with people.

  2. I tried to push my truck up the incline of my driveway—instead it went backwards and was stopped by my house, which pushed my open door in the opposite direction it was naturally intended to go.
    • Why did I do this? I kid you not—just to see if I could. Being in high school does not absolve me—this is unforgivably dumb at any age: Which my dad basically told me when I ran inside and asked for his help. He was right.

  3. I threw a rock at my best friend’s head in high school for no apparent reason. It pissed him off.

  4. I was often a thoughtless asshole to my siblings for most of my childhood.
    • It was like I was playing a part, the jerky older brother, and I didn’t question my role. There was nothing to question: my understanding was that this is what older brothers do. Then it hit me one night when I was 17 what I was doing. That was too long to realize.

  5. I once cheated my friends in a poker game by hiding cards under my ass.
    • OH WAIT NO I DIDN’T. This is one of the bitterest sources of contention that I have with my buddies. One late poker night in college I got up to go to the bathroom and there JUST HAPPENED to be an ace sitting on my chair when I got up. I was accused of cheating. I defended myself at the top of my lungs. Much was made of the fact that it was an ace card; all agreed that if it was any other card then they would have believed me. They claimed the ace put the truth to my lie. When my appeal fell on deaf ears, and a motion was being issued for my removal from the game, I dashed everyone’s chips across the table so no one could have fun if I couldn’t. It was a COINCIDENCE! and if I am not fully exonerated then I will have this phrase chiseled into my headstone. I’ll chisel it in myself, then lie down and die; upset.

  6. I asked a girl out in college when she was clearly not vibing me.
    • The worst part was, she really wasn't my style and there was no way a relationship could have blossomed. I just thought she was cute. Well Jason, that’s fine, but that’s not a good enough reason to ask someone out. So I asked her out and she pretended like it never happened and didn’t talk to me much after that. I had called her and left her a voicemail saying me and my roommate were going to watch "Matchstick Men" and that she should join us. Asking a girl to come alone to an apartment with two men and watch a Nicolas Cage movie, in the dark? I guess that is pretty creepy.
      • Some people are confused by this because maybe they, or someone they know, ask people out that they don’t know, all the time. I never operated this way. I didn’t “pick women up,” nor did I try. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have it in me. 

  7. I attempted an acrobatic leap: over a ditch, at night, in winter, onto ice, while drunk.
    •  I rolled my ankle. I don’t think I broke anything. Might have torn something. I don’t know because I didn’t go to the doctor (I didn’t have healthcare but that’s not why I didn’t go; dudes just don’t go to the doctor unless they turn yellow or their heart falls out of their chest). I think it took well over a year until my ankle felt like normal again. 

  8. Bought a condo.
    • Oh, God. My face gets a little hot every time I think about it. It didn’t help that it was 2007, the real estate market at its zenith. It didn’t help that the HOA dues were $330 a month (but the topiaries were beautiful!). Just don’t ever do it. Unless you’re going to live there. Forever. And you’re not into that whole “bang for your buck” thing.

  9. Visit Australia.
    • Well that’s not necessarily a bad thing—allow me to explain. The series of events that led to the ill-fated trip to Australia that you need to avoid were this: Date an Australian foreign exchange student. Then try the long distance thing when she goes home. Then buy non-refundable plane tickets to visit her. Then have her cheat on you. Then go anyway and stay at her parents’ house. Yep. But I actually don’t regret this one because going to Australia was awesome. But it is hard to keep my dignity in tact when I think about how loser-ish the whole scenario was.

  10. Date your teacher. 
    • No, it’s not as bad as it sounds. She was only a professor at my community college, never my actual professor. It was after I attended. She was actually awesome, but c’mon, I should have known that wasn’t a good idea.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Spiritual Abuse and What to do About It, Part 4

Spoiler Alert

I have bit off more than I can chew. I’ve spent some time thinking about it, and the truth is that I cannot resolve the issues for Mars Hill, Driscoll, the problem of spiritual abuse in the church, etc.

Let’s say that I wanted to. I guess the way I would start would be to begin to dispense advice and make rules. Unfortunately that doesn’t work for me: I am very wary of the double-edged sword that is advice, and I don’t like rules. We can’t live our lives according to a rule book—it’s why God didn’t give us one. Oh, we want one, desperately, that’s why we try to turn the Bible into one (unceasingly), but it is not.

The Difficulty of Advice

What do I have against advice? There are situations where it is called for; you just won’t really know when. Bad advice hurts people, every day. Good advice, applied wrongly, hurts people, every day. Advice can have unintended consequences that you cannot divine. In order to dispense good advice, you need the following to align: You need to know the person extremely well, you need to understand the situation you’re advising them on correctly, and you need to know for someone else what the correct thing to do is. People are complicated and, to some extent, unknowable. “Situations” are only these two elements (complicated & unknowable) compounded by a factor of how many people happen to be involved. It’s a minefield. It’s reaping the whirlwind. I have been helped by advice. I have been hurt by advice. I have ignored tons of advice. It’s a crapshoot.

I can’t give you advice because I don’t know you, and I don’t know your situation. I’m not writing this to anyone in particular. I saw something in the world that corresponded to a wound I suffered and am suffering, and I opened my mouth.

Now that I have gotten all of that out of the way I can get to my final goal of this series, and talk about what we can do about spiritual abuse in general, and in our current particular.

The Defense Stands: Pro-Driscoll Arguments

Here is a reaction to Mark Driscoll that I have read in the past few weeks many times over, and I don’t think it works:

I don’t know the full story, you don’t know the full story, so let’s not judge, don’t take sides, pray for all involved and shut up.

I’m sorry, that’s not going to fly. The allegations being presented revolve around abuse: mismanagement of funds by leadership, a culture of fear being perpetuated, dozens upon dozens of individuals claiming mistreatment by authority.

Here is a thought experiment for you: Do you know any of the sexual abuse victims in the never ending Catholic Church scandals? No? Would you say the same thing to those victims as you would to the many who are claiming victim-hood at Mars Hill? Can you imagine how unbelievably cruel, thoughtless, and dare I say evil it would be to say to a rape victim, “Well I don’t know the whole story, so I’m not going to take sides”?

So why is spiritual abuse any different? Because sexual abuse is illegal and spiritual abuse is not? That’s absolutely true. The only problem is Jesus did not give us the same out that the world would—“it shall not be so among you.”  This is a point of emphasis, so let me emphasize it: “IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU.”  Unfortunately we are not better than the world, but Jesus has mysteriously called us, and especially our leadership, to a higher standard. So equivocating cop-outs (“not uncommon or illegal") are unfortunately not acceptable in His House.

Here’s another thing you might hear: “don’t judge lest ye be judged.” Some would level that against the things I have said. It goes something like this: “look, Mark Driscoll has done countless good for the cause of Christ. The good he has done far outweighs any bad that he may have done.” This appeals to our sense of logic—but our sense of logic is a fairly base tool that only accounts for logic. There are many aspects beyond logic that should be considered and brought to bear when trying to decide what to do in any given situation—morality, justice, mercy, grace, emotion, just to name a few. For instance, once again, we would not use this “greater good” argument against a sexual abuse allegation.

Here’s one last thing that gets said, and was even offered by Mars Hill leadership as a reason for why Mark should not be under fire: His bad behavior, his pattern of abuse and unhealthiness, is something from the past. So yes, there may be a pile of dead bodies behind the church that Mark is (formerly?) proud of, but they were run over in the past, and this is now.

Really? Well, to that I guess my only question is: What is the statute of limitations on spiritual abuse? Apparently the accountability board of Mars Hill thinks it's pretty short. Usually pastors "disqualify" themselves via adultery or money mishandling. Can you imagine a pastor and his board of elders stating, "Sure, I had a couple of affairs, but that was five years ago"?

But Jason, has he actually done anything? He might stand accused and guilty in the court of public opinion—but that court, as much power as it might hold sway, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality, with the truth. That is true. I can’t prove what Driscoll has or has not done. But, having been the victim of a gross misuse of spiritual authority myself, my opinion is that of course he’s guilty. But I don’t know that. Just my opinion.

What Should Mars Hill Do?

I told you that I can’t know and shouldn’t tell Mars Hill what they’re supposed to do. But I know you want me to opine anyway. I also think I have given sufficient context for how one should think about these matters, and so you know that what anyone’s individual opinion is just doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. So let me just say it and be done with it so we can go on to other things:

The world is watching, and Jesus wanted us to operate differently than the world. With all of the allegations that have been made, and especially with his removal from the Acts29 network, it seems obvious and fairly simple to me that Mark Driscoll needs to be placed on administrative leave, and during that time ensure that he have no ability to have any sort of control over Mars Hill (decision making, hiring/firing etc.). Then a full investigation should be done, free of any fear of recompense. Then Driscoll needs to be held accountable for the wrongs that are piled before him, make restitution, repent, have a time of healing and then be restored to his position of authority. That’s assuming all of those things take place, and his repentance is true. It’s a difficult thing to do, because we can’t “know” if someone’s repentance is true. We can’t look into the soul of the person standing next to us, or even the person we are married to. But this is the world as God has arranged it, so we have to make a decision we can’t be certain of, and then have faith.

What Do We Do? A Suggestion

We live in fallen world, a vale of tears, a hostile environment. As Francis Spufford puts it, we all suffer from the HPtFtU (which means, if you’ll pardon the unvarnished truth for a moment: the Human Propensity to F*** things Up). We all suffer from that. We all do. Christians and non-Christians, no separation. That’s not going away. We are not going to get flawless leaders, and we are not going to get flawless followers. We have to allow for that. Please don’t hear me asking spiritual authority to write a check they could never hope to cash.

My suggestion is this—that we remember one of the sustaining bass notes that resonates throughout all of Scripture: The heart of man is deceitful above all things. But this needs to be taken one step further in the Christian world: THAT TRUTH DOES NOT CHANGE THE MOMENT WE ACCEPT JESUS INTO OUR HEART. Being a Christian means that you understand the regrettable condition of your heart, and you have admitted you need help. That admission doesn’t flip the condition of your heart like a light switch; it just grants you access to help.

How do we apply this priceless piece of wisdom? If you are in leadership, or thinking of going into leadership, know that your single biggest challenge will be to wield your authority correctly. Know that you will be compelled, you will be inclined, to do the wrong thing with it. You’ll feel like throwing your weight around, leaning on someone, calling something wrong right, because it will be easier, more convenient, and most of all, because you can. In the short term, you can get away with it.

The Pattern

Spiritual abuse has a pattern. A friend of mine called my attention to this invaluable website. It has some firsthand accounts of mostly former Mars Hill leadership repenting of the abuses they perpetrated and helped to perpetrate at Mars Hill. I've spent some time reading it, and have noted the disturbing similarity to many of their stories. I've pulled out some warnings signs that are not anyone's opinion (least of all my own), but what actual spiritual leaders actually say that they actually did, felt, thought. If you recognize any of these things in your own church or small group, it is an indication that spiritual abuse may be present:

Actions of leaders:
  • getting defensive with people who have hard questions
  • lording over others
  • an over emphasis on numerical growth (easily justified as "spreading the gospel!")
  • From one confessor: 
    • I wrongfully believed the lie that Jesus is not working in any other church and that He is only working in Mars Hill
    • I did not call Mark out when I witnessed his sin as a fellow pastor should, because of the fear of losing my job
  • shunning people [and I would just add that a formal call for shunning does not need to be made in order for people to be and feel shunned and isolated in every way from their suddenly former body of believers]
  • Grace language being preached and utilized, but ultimately hollow, giving way to a practical application of works based salvation
  • A general approach to congregants as masses needing to be controlled, versus valuable participants in the body of Christ that is the Church 
  • A lack of information and openness regarding the actions, decisions and consequent behavior of leadership
  • When wrongs are acknowledged, an inability to offer genuine, thoughtful and sincere apologies

Experiences of followers:
  • A harsh demand for immediate turning away of sin that you may or may not be committing
  • Family members being told to "shun" other family members that are "in sin"
  • Asking hard but fair questions of leadership, but not receiving a response to the actual question, but an invitation, direct or non, to leave the church
  • Exclusion of information or involvement of a partner or vital family member in the happenings of a cataclysmic situation 
  • Refusal to engage or honestly participate in mediation to resolve and heal wounds and suffering sustained by both leadership and individuals 

Finally, If you’re not in leadership, know these things: being in leadership is incredibly hard. Your leaders will make mistakes. You shouldn’t keep count of these, nor be suspicious of your leaders for the sake of suspicion. No good can come from this. But abuse has a pattern, and we are called to have the courage and humility to call this out. So while you are out not hunting for it, you may stumble across it. Be sure that you are right. Take your time, pray, think, ponder, question. Know that you are subject to the same fallenness as your authorities. Treat them with the same grace you would treat yourself. It is glory to overlook an offense, and it is wrong to say "peace," when there is no peace. God didn’t make it easy on us, and he didn’t give us a rulebook, but he promised us mysterious help, and said of himself, go and do likewise.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Spiritual Abuse and What to do About It, Part 3

Part two provided the context and reason for part three (but if you haven't read either of those then start at part one!). Below are some thoughts I penned 16 months ago; thought better of posting them, and set them on the shelf.


I don't know if that's exactly the right word, but it's the word that keeps coming to mind when I think about writing what I want to write. I mean it in a detached, dispassionate clinical sense. I don't feel emotionally devastated; I am not in acute pain—but when I think about all of the thoughts I've had this morning—I think they are devastating.

Today is Sunday. Virtually all of the Sunday mornings in my life have been spent at church. But that all changed a year ago. In the last year it wouldn't take much more than one hand to count all the times we have attended a Sunday morning service.

This morning I arose and read a tale of gross spiritual abuse. My wife had come across the story a week ago. She had started to read it (it's very long), and fell asleep crying, probably not even half way through. I had been wanting to read it, so I took the hour or so that was required this morning. It is the firsthand account written by the wife of a former pastor/elder at Mars Hill Church who had been fired from his job with them for "lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority."

I got angry and upset and confused and frustrated. There were haunting, nasty similarities between the story I read and the woeful scenario that played out for my family early last year. Reading this story made me relive my similar story, as it did for my wife, and wounds faded but not gone were revived.

The church can be such an ugly, terrible thing, just like all of us, in our worst moments, when the lower angels of our nature get the better of us. We all fall short, and we all need grace, and we all need our trespasses forgiven, as we forgive others their trespasses.

But the old question—the one that I asked myself over and over and over again this time last year—revived itself: Is there another category? We need to forgive and forget and make peace with other's sin and our own—but what do you do with abuse? And how do you define spiritual abuse, exactly? And if you handle it differently, then how?

But there are just too many things to consider. Who are YOU to say? "Abuse" often falls in between so many shades of gray—one person's spiritual abuse is another person's exaltation of righteousness, of being true to God, of calling what is right, right, and what is wrong, wrong.

When I left my church my overarching reason, which I stated to the leadership on my departure, was this: I would never want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. Since there was no recognition that there was any wrongdoing, I could see no reason why it wouldn't happen again.

So I left. But I wrestled with this: did I have a duty/obligation/responsibility to warn others? I sought the opinion of many people that I trust, and the overwhelming response was "no." These situations, these he said/she said scenarios are always bound up in so many shades of gray and dueling details that it is "impossible" for an outsider to the situation to know where the truth and fault lie.

Then I read this story of the Petry’s. And now I'm not so sure. BUT I'M NOT SURE. How do you know, how do you know what the right thing to do is? My wife and I have spent a couple of hours talking about it this morning. If you see abuse happening, is it evil to NOT say something? Sexual and physical abuse are easy to identify (though, for some horrifying reason, not so easy for churches to put an end to), but what I'm talking about, what my experience has been, is spiritual and/or emotional abuse—a different thing, harder to categorize, spot, confront and treat.

Here are some of the quotes from the story I was reading that put me ill at ease with keeping my mouth shut:

"We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God."

"If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say or do anything that might anger him. This is tragic."

"And now, I am also very sorry for how my years of silence regarding the spiritual abuse that I suffered have indirectly contributed to the abuse of other precious people."

But what can be done? I have the urge to warn and protect, but what can be done? One thing I have learned through my own ordeal is that, if you didn't have the experience firsthand, it will be very easy for you to overlook the abuse. You will put it on the shelf where you put things you are uncertain of how to categorize, where you will promptly and dutifully forget about it. That's just human nature.

It makes perfect sense—if you don’t have firsthand information, it only makes sense to rely on the authority of that organization for your information and explanation. What other choice do you have? It would seem that one is incentivized, indirectly directed to side with authority in a voluntary organization such as a church. As long as you trust the leadership; which you think would be a foregone conclusion because why would you be a part of an organization whose leadership you did not trust? It's the same old story, there is nothing new under the sun: power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And to add to that, if I may be so bold, fear of those in power tends to corrupt as well.

I should know, I lived it. I spent time in leadership at my church and regularly witnessed or received firsthand accounts of actions by other leaders that offended my conscience. Sometimes I said something. When I said something I usually had a battle on my hands. Not honest disagreement—"honest disagreement" inevitably devolved into recriminations and insinuations of disloyalty and mistrust and lack of respect directed at me. So I learned to pick my battles. And I grieved over the people who were hurt and spiritually abused and I said nothing—their battle was often one I decided not to pick. On each one I had to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine if it was worth the emotional/spiritual/relational turmoil I was sure to bring down on my and my wife's head by speaking my mind.

What can be done? The painful conclusion is that people have been, are, and will continue to be people. As such they are subject to the way of all flesh, which means that most will need to put their hand on the stove and be burned (even though they have watched their friends and family do the same) before their perspective changes.

And only then will they have true empathy for those that have gone before them.

*End transmission from 16 months ago*

Part four will examine what can be done about spiritual abuse. I can't promise you all the answers, but I can promise you some thoughts, some tears, some questions.

Can We Lighten Up the Mood In This Place?

Thank you.

After all, we do not mourn as ones who are without hope.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Spiritual Abuse and What to do About It, Part 2

Here is part two of this series. In part two I explain the reason for part three.

Confusing, I know.

The thing about part three is that it was written 16 months ago and it was never posted. I didn't feel good about posting it. But I wasn't sure about that. So I asked a close friend and some family what they thought, and they agreed that, at the time, all things considered, I probably shouldn't post it.

Upon reexamination, and taking into account the current woes for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, it looks like its publish date has come.

Part three is a longish examination of my process in sorting through the pain of my church experience, examined through the lens of a detailed account of one of the first Mars Hill pastors to be fired for a "lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority." 16 months ago was about 14 months after we left the church.

Why am I going to dust off this piece of my writing, pull it from the trash heap, as it were, and share it with the world?

Because I have learned something from the "pile of dead bodies" that have been hemorrhaging out of Mars Hill for years that have now come to a head (or are at least approaching one): sharing your story is important. Sharing your story can bring a measure of comfort to someone else. It let's them know that they are not alone. I know that just reading the stories of people who endured a similar experience to my own of spiritual abuse has heartened me greatly.

What's the difference between sharing your story and gossip? Well, situations are like people—each one is different. Each one requires its own unique prescription for remedy. Systematic and/or structural Authoritarianism (which, in a church, often expresses itself in the form of spiritual abuse) is nowhere near the same ballpark as your run of the mill interpersonal squabbles with friends, family, and coworkers that we come across every day. Different situations, different measures. I don't think it is right to talk behind people's backs—I do think it is right for people to tell the truth about unreconciled abuse they have endured.

My main concern in posting this piece 16 months ago was that it would be viewed as possibly divisive, stirring up a hornets nest, gossipy, whatever. And maybe that's what it was 16 months ago. But another year of healing has gone by (the wound is still there, and it is considerable, but when I think of the last two and a half years I am so thankful for all the healing that has taken place). 16 months ago I was afraid of looking bitter, of looking for vengeance. Now I know and see that is not at all where my heart was at. 16 months ago was just a realization for me that spiritual abuse was every bit as real and significant (not in its effects, but in its very existence) as physical, sexual, verbal, or any other kind of behavior that is abusive. All of these forms of abuse are wrong. All of them need to be addressed and extinguished when detected (this is the ideal outcome, rarely the actual outcome). All of them require their own set of guidelines to be addressed, accounted for, and restitution made. Why would spiritual abuse be any different?

Because we don't have a language for it. You don't hear the term very often. It's nebulous. It is incredibly hard to distinguish it from all of the trappings it comes packaged in.

So we can go no further until I finally give you a definition for the term I keep using:

"Spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds."

That definition was written by Ken Blue, author of "Healing Spiritual Abuse." It was selected from the dozen or so definitions listed on this helpful website. This particular definition best describes my perspective on the abuse, but they all are good. All are getting at a practice that is as insidious as it is common.

Another quote from the website, from Ronald Enroth (professor, author of many books): “Whatever label we apply, spiritual abuse is an issue the Christian community must acknowledge and confront. It is far more prevalent and much closer to the evangelical mainstream than many are willing to admit.”

So that's the problem. Spiritual abuse happens. Part three is a distillation of my reaction to it, a first hand account to be placed in concert with all the other exiles, present and future. Part four will be thoughts on what we are supposed to do about it.

The title for the piece I never posted was "Devastation."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Spiritual Abuse and What to do About It, Part 1

Don't kick a man when he's down.

It's true and good advice. It's not in the Bible, word for word, but that doesn't detract from its veracity.

I'm not interested in kicking Mark Driscoll when he's down. I don't know Mark Driscoll personally, and I'm nowhere near qualified to make judgments about him as a person. Sure, he grew up two blocks away from me; sure he married the daughter of my lifelong pastor, which made me privy to a few more details than the next person about Driscoll; that still leaves me nowhere near qualified.

The reason I am interested in what is happening with Mark and Mars Hill is that I feel that something similar happened to me and my family at the church I was going to for my lifetime, until two and a half years ago. And when what happened to me happened to me, I said (to the pastor, my wife, to anyone who would listen): I never would want what happened to me to happen to someone else. Ever since then I have taken spiritual/emotional/authority abuse extremely seriously.

I don't know Mark, I don't know any of the people who are now telling their stories about what happened to them at Mars Hill. But this is what I know: When everyone is telling a similar story, it might just mean something. And the fact of the matter is that many, many un-anonymous people are coming out and telling this story: I had a disagreement with leadership; I tried to open a dialogue about that disagreement with the leadership; I was kicked out of the church.

This is a pattern. This is actually happening. This is what happened to me.

But it never actually happens like that. It's not as cut and dry and simple and easy. What my description leaves out is the passive-aggressive comments, the doublespeak, the paranoia of unhealthly leadership, the trouble that the concentration of power in too few hands renders, the unstated implications, the feigned godliness, the deafening silence that suddenly emanates from your once close friends and family, the use of Scripture from people in power to justify the unjustifiable. Religion is so painful because religious people are just as broken and fallen and flawed as non-religious people--but religious people pretend they are not and so they often wrap everything they do in whoreish rags of implied morality that manage to fool the faithful because we have fallen for the same lie as the rest of the religious people have. We expect more from ourselves and our leaders because of our religion, so we think that we see it.

Oh my. I knew that I had a lot to say, but I haven't even finished with clearing my throat and I've already said so much (and probably too much).

If this examination of the subject is going to continue, it is going to have to be a multi-part series.

But maybe I will have come to my senses before I am able to post the next installment.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How To Be A Genius

I bought this magazine tonight at Barnes & Noble because I'm a sucker. The promise of unlocking the mystery of my common distress was far too powerful for me to resist. The common distress being, "How do I have a good idea, and then write about it, and then keep writing about it, until I have something about, say, book length and publishable?"

After the clerk had safely drained my bank account of the needed funds, she let her opinion be known: "It's funny how today we call it neuroscience, and we live in this age where we think it can be studied and we can understand it. They were just in the right place at the right time."

"That's the thing," I said, feeling the slight sting that accompanied the truth that I was just another rube looking for answers to the unanswerable, "we think we can figure it out."

"That's why everything is so screwed up, because we keep thinking we can figure it out, and we can't."

Maybe she's right. Maybe I'm wasting my time trying to reverse-engineer a process that won't submit itself to such awkward and sticky fumbling with its unapproachable majesty.

Or maybe she just wants to have an answer that makes her feel more comfortable in the world she wants lives in.

Maybe that's all anyone can do.